Everybody was talking about the weather and not doing anything about it, except the installation artists who continued to throw left-handed jabs at “Magic Carpet Ride,” raising the cool summer temp by a few degrees, reminding us that there is still mirth in a few wild hearts.
I had given up hope of ever seeing the sun, or riding a decent wave, when I heard a sound, shocking and wonderful, piercing my office walls. It was the squealing laugh you don’t hear much anymore — kids you thought had grown numb through leisurely hours on that ADD machine known as a cell phone, squealing, laughing, actually being kids as they rode their bodyboards in the soup of a fine summer afternoon. I am a full two blocks from the beach, yet I clearly heard this sound and looked up, smiling at the realization that summer had arrived.
Summer is not, as most would say, a season regulated by moons and months and grunion runs. Summer is a state of mind, a carefree place that children need nothing but a little sand and water to discover, and adults search for with sad eyes as if trying to remember the taste of cotton candy and first kisses. Now, I remember.
The smell of cocoa butter and peroxide. Skin so tender to the touch that someone else had to peel you out of your clothes and snap you into flannel pajamas, still swaying, rocking in bed as 3-D sea dreams played throughout the night. When you were older there were the distractions of girls in soft cotton dresses and floral bikinis. Maybe they would tuck you in? Maybe not. But you walked by twice with your board, flicking your hair, trying to look natural as you puffed out your chest. If nobody looked up you quit — three times around the track would make you suspect of being weird, before weird was the new cool.
Three layers of raw skin, peeling from your nose, black hair faded to red and all darker colors blond, blond turned white that broke off in your hands and somehow looked so pretty on crisp skin with new freckles. Sand filled your pockets and your bathtub for months, or until someone not addicted to the season cleaned it up
and embarrassed you into saying you would never do it again, a vow broken the very next day.
Jellyfish, which were bothersome, and stingrays, which hurt like 9-inch poisonous darts, were the only things that ever cut into the wonder. There was endless time, but it wasn’t enough time and the waves were always too small, unless you traveled north or south of North County, to some south-facing beach where surf was three times the size.
Summer faked an appearance in April, followed by what would become known as “May gray” and “June gloom.” This year it was a “no sky July,” some called in “Julyuary,” and “Aug. fog.”
Nothing rhymes with September, but it doesn’t have to. Summer began right on schedule. I saw it on the kids with sticky hands and faces, baptized in M&Ms and Slurpees. I saw it and I heard it and it woke me and forced me into trunks and a rash guard, riding into the sunset like some aquatic buckaroo, walking home through town, dripping wet and happy and wondering where the alarm clock was so that I could rise early and see all that great sunlight on water. Sunlight on water. As good a definition of summer as any.
Filed Under: Sea Notes